Rerun Week – Day 2

Feeling a need to ponder and pray more and produce less during my morning devos this week. So after my readings, my plan is to go back through my archives and let the thinking of the past minister to me in the present. That which particularly sticks with me I’ll share with you. Here are some thoughts from November, 2019.


Maybe 2020 will be the year. The year I dig deeper into Ezekiel.

Wrapped up the book in this morning’s reading. A lot of it I think I get. A lot of it, not so much.

The apocalyptic unveiling of the glory of God captures the imagination. The departure of the glory of God is heart-breaking. The return of the glory of God, hope inspiring.

There is judgment under an old covenant and the promise of a new covenant. The weakness of the old exploited by idolatrous, rebellious hearts. The strength of the new found in divine intervention and the making of new, truth-bearing hearts.

There is also the temple destroyed, the city razed, and the land of promise laid bear. But then, a vision of a new land, a new city, and a new, glorious temple. And, whatever the new temple in the new city in the restored land is referring to, it’s intriguing. To be taken literally? Figuratively? I know what I was taught as young man, but not sure how it all fits. I know what others think it may be, but not sure how it all fits in that scenario either. So, maybe 2020 will be the year . . .

But for all the stuff that Ezekiel leaves you not knowing, it concludes with something that is sure . . .

“And the name of the city from that time on shall be, The LORD Is There.”

(Ezekiel 48:35b ESV)

When all is said and done . . . when all is done and said . . . The LORD Is There. Jehovah-Shammah.

There in the place He has promised. There in the kingdom of His coming. There in the midst of the people He has redeemed. There in the temple which houses His glory. Jehovah-Shammah. The LORD Is There.

And however the details of Ezekiel’s prophesied future state play out, what I do know is that those details have begun to be rolled out in our current state. A rebellious people redeemed. A scattered people called into community. A kingdom established in and through them. A reigning King over them. Under a new covenant. With new hearts. Longing for the final state.

Not yet in the place of promise but sojourning to that city whose designer and builder is God (Heb. 11:10). Yet, with God in their midst and with the temple that bears His glory in place –even the people of God. Living stones being built up into a spiritual house (1Pet. 2:5). Built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone. Joined together. Growing into a holy temple in the Lord. A dwelling place for God by the Spirit (Eph. 2:20-22). And Jehovah Shammah. The LORD Is There.

A lot I still don’t really get about Ezekiel . . . maybe next year we do the deeper dive. But this I do know: where God’s people are The LORD Is There.

Where they gather, His glory resides. Where they worship, His Son presides.

My dwelling place shall be with them, and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.

(Ezekiel 37:27 ESV)

By His grace. For His glory.

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Rerun Week – Day 1

Feeling a need to ponder and pray more and produce less during my morning devos this week. So after my readings, my plan is to go back through my archives and let the thinking of the past minister to me in the present. That which particularly sticks with me I’ll share with you. Here are some thoughts from 2018.


Last couple of readings in John 11 I’ve been identifying with Martha. This morning, as I hover over my reading in John 12, I’m longing to be more like Mary. I have seen the Savior’s patience in taking Martha’s deep faith even deeper. But this morning I’m a bit in wonder as I meditate on the Savior’s acceptance of Mary’s extravagant worship as a precursor to His burial.

In wonder, in part, because of a single word that I don’t think I’ve ever stopped to really noodle on before. A word that every bible teacher who has ever taught me about how to read the bible says I need to take note of. So that, when I see the “therefore”, I ask what it’s there for?

Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for Him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with Him at the table. Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

(John 12:1-3 ESV)

Only the ESV and Young’s Literal Translation translate the word as “therefore.” All my other translations use the English word “then.” As in, “Then Mary took . . . and anointed the feet of Jesus.” Giving it more a sense of chronology than causality. Martha served, Lazarus reclined, then Mary anointed.

But what if the better translation really is “therefore”? Then, I should spend a bit of time chewing on what it’s there for?

What if accordingly Mary anointed the feet of Jesus? What if consequently she seized the opportunity to worship extravagantly? What if, because these things were so — her sister serving as she had always done, her brother breathing as he had almost always done (except for those horrific 4 days) — what if, because of looking about and recognizing these somewhat mundane realities, these few moments of normality, she broke the bank and filled the house with an undeniable fragrance of her love for the Master?

If it’s really a “therefore” and not a “then”, and if that’s what it’s there for, then what am I to take from it?

Perhaps something about worshiping in the moment. Something about responding to the mundane and normal, even when recent events have been anything but normal, and when what will be is just as unpredictable.

Mary’s recently been through a lot. Not just a near death experience, but an actual death experience. One that played out unimaginably well, but who could have imagined her brother’s death in the first place? And then, her dead guy walking has incited the high priest of the Jews to put out a hit on the One who brought her brother back from life, her much loved Lord (11:49-54). What’s more, in just a few more verses, they’re going to put out a contract on her brother as well “because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus” (12:11).

But for right now, for this moment, Martha is serving, Lazarus is reclining, and THEREFORE Mary worships. Places herself in that sweet spot she’s known before, at the feet of Jesus. Breaks open the bottle of precious perfume she had saved a year for (12:5). Pours it on Jesus’ feet. Then wipes His feet with her hair in an act of unreserved humility and adoration. Worshiping in a way that would be spoken of for centuries, if only because all was so very right in that moment.

Her sister serving, her brother reclining, and so, she is worshiping at the feet of Jesus.

I’m thinking that’s what the “therefore” might be there for.

Extravagant worship in response to reminders of “mundane, normal” grace. So that God might receive the glory.

Amen?

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Do You Believe This?

It’s a question for the ages. One of those questions that’s going to get asked multiple times throughout our lives. The question that, in a sense, overrules all other questions.

Her brother was dead, she was distraught, and for days Jesus had been distant. Now He was there, but now the request was different. No longer was it sufficient for her and her sister to ask the Lord to come quickly because their brother was ill (Jn. 11:3), now the ask had to be, Call on God, Lord, for our brother is dead (Jn. 11:21). But, as Jesus so often is wont to do, before acting He determined to use this terrible moment as a teachable moment. And it centered ultimately on a question.

Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

(John 11:23-26 ESV)

Do you believe this?

Isn’t that the question we need to come back to again and again in order to keep on keepin’ on in this weird world? Isn’t that the reset we need to repeat when things get really hard and don’t make sense? Isn’t it the question that punctuates every truth we’re presented, or re-presented, about the awesome nature of God, or the grand scope of the gospel, or the benefits of weakness, or the precious promise of a sin-free, sorrow-free day to come? I’m thinkin’!

Last night, at our class on Union with Christ, we considered the implications of the ascension (Acts 1:1-11). That Jesus right now is bodily somewhere doing something. That “somewhere” is heaven at the right hand of God. That “something” is manifold: He is Sitting (Col. 3:1; Jn. 19:30; Heb. 10:10); He is Reigning (Acts 2:33, 36; 1Pet. 3:22; Rev. 1:5); He is Mediating (Heb. 6:19-20); He is Relating (Heb. 2:17-18, 4:14-16); He is Advocating (Heb. 7:23-25; Rom. 8:26). And yet, while bodily in heaven, He is equally present with us on earth (Matt.28:20b). Because we are “in Him”, while He is living in heavenly realms He is also “in us”, living in and through us (Gal. 2:20). As we talked through the mind-stretching realities and implications of our union with the ascended Christ, bottom line is we were left to answer but one question: Do you believe this?

Run the list of what you know about the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. Ponder again the promises of God you’ve highlighted in the word of God. Remind yourself of what’s above even as you deal with what’s below. No matter how long, or how short your list is, at the end of it, it still comes down to one simple, four-word question. Do you believe this?

It’s a question for the ages. A question we can anticipate being confronted with as we enter this day.

Martha models for us the right answer.

She said to Him, “Yes, Lord; I believe . . . ” (John 11:27a)

By His grace. For His glory.

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A Holy Tension

John doesn’t make it easy on us. He doesn’t talk in grey terms but speaks in black and white terms. Yet it feels like a grey area. Holy tension, Batman!

That’s what I’m feeling as I’m chewing on my reading in 1John 3:1-10 this morning.

No one who abides in Him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen Him or known Him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as He is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.

(1John 3:6-10 ESV)

How clear is that? Pretty clear. You’re a believer? You cannot keep on sinning. Nope, can’t happen. Being born of God and practicing sin are mutually exclusive. End of discussion.

Okay. But what about 1 John?

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. . . If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.

(1John 1:8, 10 ESV)

Okay, maybe there’s a difference between “no sin” and “practicing sin.” But when does “some sin” cross the line and become “keeps on sinning?” How much sin is “acceptable” until we are in the “nope, not a believer” category? I’m thinking the answers to those two questions are: 1) it crosses the line when sin becomes unrepented of, unconfessed, and un-cleansed of sin; 2) none — no amount of sin is acceptable sin.

So, if that’s true, and given the weakness of the flesh and the battle that wages each day between the old man in us and the Spirit of God in us, wouldn’t we expect that we’d be frequent flyers to the foot of the cross? That because “God’s seed abides in us” we are so aware of being “tripped up in sin” and so adverse to again being “enslaved by sin” that we cast ourselves upon the finished work of Jesus and the filling power of Jesus to not “keep on sinning”? I’m thinking.

We don’t keep on sinning. And yet we sin. Not a grey matter. A black and white reality. A holy tension.

Thank you, Jesus, for your work on the cross. Thank you, Jesus, for your work in me. Thank you, that the work you’ve begun in me, you are completing in me.

By Your grace. For Your glory.

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Abide In Him

Hmm . . . I guess John was listening.

Ask me about “abiding” and John 15 comes to mind first as the go to passage. There, Jesus talks of a vine (aka Him) and branches (aka His followers) and the importance of the branch abiding in the vine if the branch is gonna be what the branch was made to be and bear fruit.

But this morning, as I read in 1 John, there’s more about abiding. I guess John was listening.

Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. . . But the anointing that you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as His anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie —  just as it has taught you, abide in Him. And now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears we may have confidence and not shrink from Him in shame at His coming.

(1John 2:24, 27-28 ESV)

Whole lot of abiding going on. The word heard from the beginning abiding in us — the written word and, I’m thinking, the living Word. The anointing of the Spirit received from Jesus abiding in us. And it’s through what we’ve been taught, through what we know to be true, that we abide in Him. We abide in the Son AND in the Father. We abide so that when He appears at His coming again, we’ll be “ready to receive Him with open arms, with no cause for red-faced guilt or lame excuses” (MSG).

Abide. Remain. Lean in. Don’t depart. Hang on for dear life. Don’t let go.

Jesus in us. Us in Jesus.

Until He comes again.

Abide in Him.

Jesus said it, John heard it. Jesus said it, John believed it. Jesus said it, John made every effort to do it.

Me too? Yeah.

By His grace. For His glory.

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Everyone, Listen Up!

It didn’t matter whether they were young in the faith, seasoned in the faith, or actively contending for the faith, John says to each, “I am writing to you.”

I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for His name’s sake.
I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who is from the beginning.
I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one.
I write to you, children, because you know the Father.
I write to you, fathers, because you know Him who is from the beginning.
I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.

(1John 2:12-14 ESV)

Sometimes I spin my wheels on these verses trying to get clear on the why of the repetition, the what of the differentiation, and the who of the application. But this morning, what hits me is that John is writing to everyone. No one’s excluded because they’re just new to this stuff. No one is given a pass because they’ve walked in the way for decades. Nor is anyone exempted because they’re overcomers with the battle scars to prove it. To each and to all, says John, “I write to you,” because they all needed to hear it and heed it.

And if I look at the immediate context before and after these verses, beyond whatever else John wants all believers to know, he wants them to know a couple of things about loving. What to love. What not to love.

Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling.

(1John 2:10 ESV)

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in Him.

(1John 2:15)

Everyone, love your brother in Christ. Love your sister in Christ. It’s the evidence of abiding in light. It’s the visible outworking of the inner reality of living in relationship with the Father, through the Son, by the Spirit.

Everyone, don’t love the ways of this world or the stuff in it. “The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride in one’s lifestyle” (CSB) is what the world seeks to exploit. Don’t buy into it. Don’t feed on it. Don’t pursue it. Don’t give yourself to it. That’s not the Father’s love. That’s not the way of life and life abundantly (Jn. 10:10), for “the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever” (1Jn. 2:17).

Everyone — all you who have fellowship with one another as you fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ (1Jn. 1:3) — listen up!

I can major on the minors of trying to slice and dice the nuances of who John is writing to or, I can have ears to hear what John is saying to everyone. So this morning, I’m chewing on the latter and not fretting about the former.

Love one another. Don’t love the world.

Yes, Lord.

By Your grace. For Your glory.

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Waiting, Waiting, Waiting

Wrapping up 2Peter 3 this morning. And if there’s anything to take away from this passage, it’s that we should be waiting.

Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to His promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by Him without spot or blemish, and at peace.

(2Peter 3:11-14 ESV)

Waiting, waiting, waiting. It’s repetition peels as a great bell; Bong, Bong, Bong.

If Jesus is coming again — and He is — we should be waiting.

Not passively waiting, as if we’ve taken our number and then scroll through our phones while we wait in line for someone to call us up next. Not skeptically waiting, as in “I’ll wait and see” if what the Word says is gonna happen will in fact happen. But expectantly waiting. Like a kid waits for Christmas morning. Counting down the days. Watching for every change around the house that says the morning is getting nearer. Aware of every gift that mysteriously shows up under the tree as an indicator it’s gonna be soon. Leaning in. Watching and waiting in eager anticipation.

Waiting that spurs into action rather than lulls into complacency.

Waiting with confidence that what has been promised is nigh to being presented.

Waiting that impacts how we think, how we chose to live, and how we want to be found on that day when we stand before Jesus.

Patiently waiting? Yes. But also purposefully waiting.

Peter says, “The day of the Lord will come” (3:10).

I can’t wait!

But I will.

By His grace. For His glory.

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Truth-Based Freedom in a Post-Truth Culture

Some have said that ours is a post-truth culture. That objective facts (if there really are any) are increasingly giving away to subjective personal belief. That your truth may not be my truth and that, within limits, there needs to be space for all truths. (Doesn’t that sound like a truth). So, as I read the Lord Jesus’ words this morning, they sound somewhat old-fashioned and out-of-sync with our world. Praise God!

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

(John 8:31-32 ESV)

And you will know the truth and the truth will set you free. That’s a promise to claim. That’s an anchor to tether yourself to. The truth, even in a post-truth era, brings freedom.

In a day when truth is masked, manipulated, or just plain manufactured, it can be hard to simply trust in what is truly true. But it is the way of Jesus’ disciples. And, it’s possible when His followers abide in His word.

Being anchored to the truth from above helps us trust in committing ourselves to walking in what is true below. Accepting as objective the transcendent realities communicated through God’s word is what filters that which is so often subjective here below. Being skilled in the unchanging “word of righteousness” and having our “powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil” (Heb. 5:13-14) allows us to walk in a humble confidence as we navigate the ever evolving wisdom of this world. Even when we don’t see immediate benefits from walking in truth. That’s the freedom of believing in the God whose word is true.

If doing what we do, standing how we stand, and deciding what we decide is founded on abiding in His word, though we may still get some things wrong, we will be free. Free to walk by faith. Free even to fail. For even when we get it wrong, the blood of Jesus cleanses and restores, and the work of Christ being formed in us continues.

The Son has set us free and we are free indeed (Jn. 8:36). He has asked the Father to sanctify us in the truth, to make us holy in the truth, and He has declared that God’s word is truth (Jn. 17:17). And for those who seek His precepts, who pursue His word as truth, they “walk freely in an open place” (Ps. 119:45 CSB).

Truth-based freedom in a post-truth culture. Who knew?

His disciples.

Amen?

By His grace. For His glory.

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A Sanctuary (A 2018 Rerun)

Been a weird week. Been a struggle just to feed on the word in the morning much less try and share a meal. But this morning it’s still quiet and I’m reading in Ezekiel. Captured afresh by the thought of the glory of God departing the temple, departing the city — of God removing Himself from the midst of His people. So, I thought I’d go back in the archives and perhaps share some thoughts from the past on the glory departing. These thoughts from 2018 grabbed me . . . though the glory would depart for a season, God’s grace would be determined for the long haul. Thank God for a sanctuary.


“Elvis has left the building.” That’s the phrase once used at the end of an Elvis Presley concert to indicate that the concert was done–like, really done . . . as in, “It’s over, folks. No more music, tonight.” The people could disperse because the king of rock and roll wasn’t coming back for any more encores.

And reading in Ezekiel this morning there’s a sense of similar finality. The glory had the left the building.

From the house to the threshold (10:4), then out from the threshold to the court (10:18), and finally up from the midst of the once holy city to a mountain to the east (11:22-23), the cloud that once filled the holy of holies, the brightness that once emitted the very presence of God, the glory of God, had, quite literally, left the building.

The glory had departed from their midsts and the people were dispersed. They would be scattered among the nations. The land of their promised possession in ruin, they would be sent away for an extended “timeout” to consider their ways that they might repent of their rebellion. Heavy sigh!

But here’s the thing that I’m chewing on this morning, though the glory had departed, and though they would be the dispersed, yet God would not abandon His people. In fact, they would come to know His glory in a different way, a way not dependent upon a brick and mortar temple, but through a new type of relationship.

“Therefore say, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: Though I removed them far off among the nations, and though I scattered them among the countries, yet I have been a sanctuary to them for a while in the countries where they have gone.'”

(Ezekiel 11:16)

While in exile, while trying to make it in a foreign land, though far from the holy temple site which was no longer so holy because the glory was gone, the Lord GOD says, “I will be their sanctuary for a while.”

God, through Ezekiel, reaffirmed His promise: “I will gather you from the peoples . . . and give you the land of Israel” (11:17).

God then expanded the promise: I will put a new spirit in them. Give them a new heart, a heart of flesh ready, willing, and able to obey (11:19-20).

And until the full realization of the promise, God says I will be a sanctuary. I will be the temple and I will tabernacle directly with them.

For a little while, though far from home, God’s people would come to know and be satisfied with God’s abiding presence as they waited until the day of their full and complete restoration and return to the land of promise.

The glory had left the building, but the God of glory had not turned His back to His people. He would draw near to His remnant in the place of their sojourning and would be their portion, their protection, and their power. All the while, drawing out their hearts toward Him in obedient worship.

We also are people in a foreign land waiting to go home and know afresh the glory of God in all its fullness. But until then, His abiding presence through His Holy Spirit is our sanctuary, the means by which we encounter the glory, though “in a mirror dimly” (1Cor. 13:12).

What’s more, He is making us part of that sanctuary. As, in Christ, we are “being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit” (Eph. 2:22).

Though often, as we look around us, it may seem the glory has left the building, yet within us, through redeemed and regenerated hearts, we can know God as a sanctuary. His glory abiding with us, His glory abiding in us.

By His grace. For His glory.

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To Whom Shall We Go?

Talk of eating His flesh and drinking His blood was too much for some of them. That He claimed to be living bread that came down from heaven was a metaphor with implications they couldn’t stomach. That eternal life with God was somehow bound up in deeply entangling their present life with Him was not something they were prepared to accept. So, writes John,

When many of His disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?”

(John 6:60 ESV)

His teaching was expansive. His teaching was exclusive. Therefore, for many, His teaching was offensive.

And so,

After this many of His disciples turned back and no longer walked with Him.

(John 6:66 ESV)

They were happy to follow Him as long as they could get fed by Him (Jn. 6:26). But feed on Him? Believe He had come down from heaven? Trust Him alone as the way to get to heaven? Nope. We’re outta here, they said.

What about the others?

So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that You are the Holy One of God.”

(John 6:67-69 ESV)

Lord, to whom shall we go? Great question to have ready in your back pocket when the going gets tough.

When the way is unclear, when everything seems hard, when the burden seems too heavy to bear, when temptation arises to turn back and look other places for life and sustenance, before walking away it might make sense to intentionally process, “To whom shall we go?”

If we believe that Jesus really is the Holy One of God, then to look to anyone or anything else for eternal life would be to settle for a lesser life. If, by faith, it just makes sense that the One from God could provide directions on how to get to God, then to listen to anyone else would be to trade flourishing for foolishness.

Yeah, at times we may encounter hard stuff, but to whom shall we go?

For, when by faith we commit to follow, we find that His grace is sufficient. His power is made perfect in our weakness. His yoke is easy and His burden is light. Because when we purpose afresh to go to Him, we realize afresh His promise that He is always with us.

Because of grace. For His glory.

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